The Best Authentic Greek Stuffed Tomatoes-Gemista

Try this quintessential summer Greek Mediterranean dish: Roasted summer vegetables stuffed with rice and herbs. The famous Gemista or Yemista.

Gemista Greek stuffed tomatoes

It is not possible to talk about tomatoes, the Mediterranean diet and Greek food without mentioning Gemista (or Yemista). Gemista are vegetables usually tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant filled with rice (sometimes with ground meat) and baked in the oven. Gemista translates as “ones that are filled”. And as I mentioned earlier my mom’s gemista happen to be my favorite food.

Now I need to mention that yes, this recipe has a lot of olive oil for non-mediterranean standards, but don’t let that scare you.

As with most people’s favorite foods, this is also a comfort food for me, but as opposed to many comfort foods this one is healthy. At first glance you may think it’s a starchy dish, but once you take a look at this recipe you will notice that there are plenty of vegetables, to be exact, for each gemisto you eat you get almost 2 servings of vegetables. Why? Well the rice itself is mixed with some more vegetables; in fact you only eat about a ¼ cup of rice per serving.

Now I need to mention that yes, this recipe has a lot of olive oil for non-mediterranean standards, but don’t let that scare you. First of all there is plenty of olive oil left in the pan so unless you drink it or mop it up with bread you won’t be getting all those calories. Secondly, as I have mentioned the beauty of the lathera-Greek vegetarian dishes with moderate starch and a good amount is olive oil is that you actually end up with a moderate amount of calories because the vegetables hardly add any calories to the meal.

Now as I said my mom’s gemista is my favorite food, I don’t order gemista when I’m out because none of them will compare. These are truly the best (and I don’t say that lightly). Here is why:

How to Make the Best Greek Stuffed Tomatoes- Gemista

  • The rice is cooked until it is very soft not al dente and so are the vegetables. My mom says that if the gemista look too pretty they probably won’t taste good. And she is right, whenever I see nice bright looking gemista that have kept their shape, the vegetables are somewhat hard and so is the rice, making for a tasteless and boring dish. Also, do not pre-cook the rice, the whole point of cooking together is that the rice absorbs all the flavors of all the other ingredients,
  • She only fills them with rice, not ground beef. It is a summer dish; beef would just make it heavier and add calories.
  • She mixes the rice with a bunch of herbs, which makes them super tasty.
  • There is olive oil in this dish and it is important that you use it, otherwise you won’t get this melt-in-your mouth sensation. Trust me. I recently saw a recipe for gemista on the site of a popular US NYC newspaper that used only 3 tablespoons of olive oil, that will not work, you’ll end up with a hard, tough and dry gemisto.
  • She cooks potatoes with them. By adding potatoes you actually have a whole meal fit to serve guests.
  • And did I mention that this recipe has no animal products, so perfect for vegans too!
greek stuffed tomatoes and peppers

Ok this is my mom’s famous recipe, it will take you about an hour to do the prep, so you are better off making a big batch, these last 2-3 days and they taste better the next day.

This dish is a lathero and it is enjoyed best at room temperature with feta. I don’t eat it with bread, as there is the rice and potatoes, but most Greeks do.

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The Best Authentic Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers-Gemista

Gemista Greek stuffed tomatoes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
The quintessential Greek Mediterranean dish: Roasted summer vegetables stuffed with rice and herbs. The famous Gemista or Yemista.
Course: Dinner, Entree
Cuisine: Greek, Mediterranean, Vegan
Keyword: Greek Stuffed Tomatoes
Servings: 7
Author: OliveTomato.com
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Ingredients

  • 5 large tomatoes
  • 5 large green bell peppers (you may also use zucchini or eggplant) + 1 small green pepper
  • 10-12 tablespoons un-cooked short or medium grain rice (do not use long grain)
  • 8 zucchini
  • 1 onion
  • 2 pounds potatoes
  • 7 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dry mint
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • cloves-whole
  • allspice – whole
  • 1 1/2 cup olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt/pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven at 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius).
  • Wash the tomatoes and peppers. For the peppers cut around the stem and empty the inside of the pepper. For the tomato cut around the base (the bottom part) not the stem part and empty the tomato with a spoon. Put these pieces of tomato in a separate bowl along with the juices. Make tiny slits on the inside bottom of the peppers and tomatoes (not all the way through)
  • Place the empty tomatoes and peppers along with their caps n a large pan about 3 inches deep.
  • Take 2-3 zucchini peel them and grate them, put the grated zucchini in another bowl.
  • In a food processor add an onion, 4-5 garlic cloves, a bit of oil about a teaspoon and some salt. Mix but not too much (you don’t want a paste). Add the onion mixture to the zucchini.
  • Take a small green bell pepper and also dice it and add to the zucchini mixture.
  • Finally take a small potato (a bit larger than an egg) and grate it and add to the zucchini mixture.
  • Now strain the juice from the tomatoes (squeeze the tomato with your hands too) and save in a separate bowl. Now you should have 3 bowls one with tomato, one with zucchini-potato-onion mixture and one with tomato juice.Cut the tomato in small pieces and mix it with the zucchini mixture. Add 1 tablespoon salt, dry mint, parsley and tomato paste. Now add to the mixture 10 to 12 tablespoons short grain rice and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Finally add ¾ cup olive oil. Let the mixture sit.
  • Now start cutting the potatoes. Take 2 lbs. of potatoes, peel them and cut them into quarters, place in a bowl. Take 3-4 zucchini, peel and slice and add to potatoes. Add ¾ cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon oregano, some salt and 2 cloves garlic cut n small pieces. Mix well (with your hands preferably). Then add the tomato juice which you had saved from the tomatoes in step 8.
  • Now start filling the tomatoes and peppers with rice all the way to the top and close with their caps.
  • Add the potatoes to the pan, making sure to place around the tomatoes and peppers so they don’t slide in the tray. If there is any rice mixture left mix it with the quartered potatoes and add to to the pan.
  • Add 5 cloves to the potatoes and about 5 allspice.
  • Add about a cup of water, but not on top-you don’t want to “wash off” the oil. Add the water in a corner of the pan and tilt slightly so the water goes everywhere.
  • Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes at 400 Fahrenheit (200 Celsius). Then reduce to 320-340 Fahrenheit (170-160 Celsius ) and bake for another 1-½ hours. If you notice it getting dry, add a bit more water.
  • To see if it is done, check the rice it should be soft and mushy.

Notes

You can also just use only tomatoes.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE? Leave a comment or share on instagram and mention @greekdiet

Photos by Elena Paravantes © All Rights Reserved

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107 Comments

  • Reply Echo September 14, 2021 at 12:07 am

    Absolutely brilliant! Almost as good as the ones I’ve had in Greece. I used basmati rice and it worked out fine. Don’t worry if you don’t have short grain rice to hand. I also stuffed zucchini and baby eggplant. Tasted good today but I know it will be even better tomorrow.5 stars

  • Reply John DePaula September 1, 2021 at 12:53 pm

    The recipe looks wonderful! This is the kind of dish that my mother would have made in her prized Blue Granite Roaster.5 stars

  • Reply Barbara Kolk August 29, 2021 at 5:16 pm

    Omit all rice. Use ground meet even turkey ground etc. rice add more calories and diabetics are now told avoid rice, Barley is healthier. I so not make stuffed pepper for years with rice. I fill with some meat and use lots of shredded veggies.celery, onions, carrots, parsnips all healthier then rice Try it. Let me know.5 stars

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN August 29, 2021 at 6:25 pm

      Thanks Barbara! Nice suggestions. This a traditional Greek recipe and the meat would overwhelm the dish (although there is a Greek ground beef version). Regarding diabetics, rice can be incorporated in their diet in certain amounts, the American Diabetes Association has food lists and guides.

  • Reply rosemary mcnamara August 9, 2021 at 1:02 am

    Can this dish be frozen after making?

    Thank you, Rose

  • Reply Nola Burgess July 3, 2021 at 2:16 pm

    This recipe looked so delicious that I took a chance and reduced it in almost half ish in order not to have too much leftover from dinner with my husband. The flavors are so delicious! We used freshed herbs, except the mint as directed. I left out allspice as I didn’t have it but still it was so great! We’ll definitely make this again, next time for a bigger crowd.5 stars

    • Reply Gia August 19, 2021 at 8:31 pm

      Authentically, the mint is the most important herb in this recipe!

  • Reply Kate June 23, 2021 at 11:20 am

    I’ve made this recipe a few times and it’s so delicious. Just like we’ve eaten in Greece.
    Please remind me as I haven’t made it for a while, does it really require a “tablespoon” of salt??? That’s an enormous amount …unless a tablespoon means something different in the USA than in the UK. In the UK a tablespoon is about 15 mls. Should it read a “teaspoon” which is 5 mls?5 stars

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN June 23, 2021 at 12:46 pm

      Hi Kate! Thank you! Happy to hear that you enjoy the recipe! The recipe makes 7-8 servings, so that would correspond to less than a 1/2 tsp of salt per serving, which corresponds to about 980 mg of sodium. The Dietary guidelines recommend about 2300 mgs a day, so each meal should be around 800 mg, with this amount of salt you may have a bit more which can be balanced out with the rest of the day. So to answer your question, yes for the authentic version it is about 1 tbsp. However, you can try reducing the salt and see how it tastes, but nutrition wise the sodium is not that high when you take into account that it serves 7-8 people.

      • Reply Kate June 23, 2021 at 1:49 pm

        Thank you very much for clarifying this Elena. It was the salty taste that I was concerned about but you’re right, each person will be getting only about 1/3 of a teaspoon, based on 8 people.
        I really appreciate your prompt reply and thank you again for this fantastic (and vegan!!!) recipe.5 stars

  • Reply Kristin March 17, 2021 at 12:32 pm

    What size of pan do you usually use for this recipe? I don’t know if everything will fit in what I have so I’m trying to figure out how much I should make. I’m thinking to just see how many tomatoes and peppers fit and do the math from there.

  • Reply Spiros January 30, 2021 at 8:34 pm

    How would i add ground beef to this?

  • Reply Summer October 29, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    So good! I’ve made these 3 times and everyone is so impressed. So flavourful and taste better than you could order in a restaurant. I will keep making these when we have friends or family over. This dish is a keeper! Thank you!!5 stars

  • Reply Anna October 10, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    Absolutely fantastic! Used barley groats instead of rice and it was a good idea – it is creamy and delicious. Thanks for the recipe!5 stars

  • Reply Stacy Heffner September 10, 2020 at 3:15 am

    Can eggplant be substituted for zucchini for the potato mixture you place around the peppers/tomatoes (not the rice mixture)? I have some from my garden I’d like to use.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN September 18, 2020 at 5:51 am

      Yes, you can, although I would still try to add a bit of zucchini. The texture will be slightly chunkier.

  • Reply Meghan Lennon September 7, 2020 at 6:46 am

    We don’t seem to have short grain rice in the shops around me other than arborio rice, will medium grain rice work?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN September 7, 2020 at 7:33 am

      Hi Meghan, Yes you can use medium grain rice, just don’t use long grain rice.

  • Reply Jason Howard July 7, 2020 at 2:01 am

    This was very good. I did all tomatoes, because I had a flat from CostCo. I ended up with too much stuffing, though, so next time I’ll throw in some peppers to accomdate the spare. Because there seemed to be a lot of moving parts to this recipe, I ended up re-writing it into my own style. Would be glad to share if anyone wants it. Served with a block of feta, a decent bread, and a pinot grigio.5 stars

  • Reply Jonne June 24, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    Hi Elena, my sister and I are going to make this this weekend, it looks delicious! I have one question, I read the recipe at list 5 times but I can’t figure out where the 1.3 liter of olive oil goes? What am I missing? I suppose you oil the tomatoes and bell peppers and the baking tray. But I can’t find it in the description. I would love to hear from you. Thank you so much for answering.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RDN June 24, 2020 at 3:47 pm

      Hi Jonne, thank you for your message. The amount of olive oil is 1 1/2 cup (not 1.3 liters). In steps 8 and 9, it is noted to add the olive oil (3/4 cup in step 8 and 3/4 cup in step 9).

      • Reply Jonne June 24, 2020 at 5:20 pm

        Oh gosh, you talked about the amount of olive oil so I googled it, and was like yeah that’s a lot but okay, let’s do it. Funny. Thank you so much!

      • Reply Jonne August 1, 2020 at 1:29 pm

        Hi Elena, just wanted to say that we already made it twice! It is so delicious, it taste like a vacation to Greece from the comfort of your own home. We love it! Thank you so much for sharing, and thanks to your mom as well.5 stars

  • Reply Jill April 10, 2020 at 6:35 am

    Excellent is all I can say! Thank you for this detailed recipe, it worked out perfect! Definitely worth the effort.5 stars

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